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Whether you're installing a new system or you're considering replacement of the piping in your compressed air system, deciding which pipe materials to use can be difficult and time consuming. Below are three common pipe material options and the risks and benefits associated with each.
While plastic piping was one of the most common pipe materials used for compressed air, it has long been recommended against. Plastic pipes are known to deliver clean air and are cheap and readily available.
Plastic pipes are also known for being lightweight and easily maneuvered. They are easily installed, and are non-corrosive. Unfortunately, plastic piping was found to be dangerous when used in compressed air systems, as it has a tendency to shatter and send sharp pieces of plastic flying in all directions. In fact, OSHA has banned the use of plastic piping in compressed air systems. If your system is currently using plastic piping, it's recommended that you replace it immediately with one of the many available options.
Black Iron Pipe
Black iron piping, also commonly referred to as steel piping, is another commonly used piping material found in compressed air systems. Unlike plastic piping, it is much heavier and harder to maneuver, and it does not pose a shattering risk.
While black iron pipes are a cheap option, they're also prone to corrosion caused by exposure to moisture. This can lead to contamination of the whole system. If rust or corrosion is a concern, which it will be in the majority of systems, there are other options available.
If rusting and corrosion is a concern, you may want to consider copper piping. With copper pipes, there is never any risk of corrosion, as copper does not react in the presence of moisture, unlike black iron.
Copper piping delivers clean, non-contaminated air throughout the compressed air system. Without corrosion, there is less risk of leaks and energy loss. Copper is more expensive, but as it doesn't shatter or corrode, its lifespan is much longer than that of plastic or black iron.
When considering which materials to use for the piping in your compressed air system, it's important to take a good look at the benefits and risks of each. If you're unsure of which material is best for you, consider speaking with a knowledgeable contractor. While the three listed above are well-known for their use in compressed air systems, there are many more options available. For more information, speak with experts like Aluminum Air Pipe.